A case of Gospel inflation

A Christian minister asked a really interesting question on Twitter: he notes ‘that Jesus is portrayed as referring to God as Father roughly 170 times while the OT does only about 11’. What are we to make of this, he asks? I suggested a take on this question he may not have considered before. Geoff Holsclaw is a minister and seminary professor of theology in the US.


Professor of New Testament studies, James D. G. Dunn, in his book The Evidence For Jesus gives a statistical table showing how the early church remembered only a very few occasions in which Jesus spoke of God as ‘Father’ (just 3 such utterances in Mark). Yet in the later gospels (especially Matthew and John) we can see a huge inflation and expansion of the number of such sayings.

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It is fair to conclude that we cannot take John’s reported testimony on this point as evidence of what Jesus actually said about himself. It represents a later theological development.

Categories: Jesus, New Testament scholarship

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3 replies

  1. Geoff Holsclaw on his tweet:

    “while the OT died only 11”


    I realize that is a typo, but what do you think he meant?

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